Last updated: 10:34 PM ET, Sat December 19 2015

Seattle City Council Gives Uber and Lyft Drivers the Right to Unionize

Car Rental & Rail | Michael Isenbek | December 19, 2015

Seattle City Council Gives Uber and Lyft Drivers the Right to Unionize

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By unanimous 8-0 vote Monday, the Seattle City Council gave drivers who work for app-based, on-demand; ride hailing services such as Uber and Lyft the right to collectively bargain over pay and working conditions — a controversial but watershed decision, the Seattle Times reported.

Mayor Ed Murray won’t sign the ordinance, the Times noted, but the lack of his signature will not prevent the bill from becoming the law, Murray said.

The National Labor Relations Act grants workers the right to collective bargaining, the Times said, but Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors, so these laws don’t apply to them. But after Monday’s vote, Seattle is the exception.

And at the moment the bill passed, applause erupted in the chambers and bill backers, many of them drivers, chanted, “When we fight, we win!” according to the Times.

Takele Gobena, a 26-year-old Uber driver and a unionization leader, said to the Times that Monday’s vote was a victory. Gobena actually found himself temporarily kicked off of the app in August after participating in a pro-unionization news conference.

“I’m so excited. I’m so happy,” Gobena told the Times. “This is a big change for us.”

Uber and Lyft aren’t done, though. The Times asserts that the companies will likely sue the city, as they assert the ordinance violates federal labor and antitrust laws.

Seemingly emphasizing that these ride-hailing services are employment opportunities for the individual rather than a collective, Uber said in a statement Monday via the Times that the company “…is creating new opportunities for many people to earn a better living on their own time and their own terms.”

Mayor Murray has his own reservations, per a letter sent to city council members before the vote. According to the Times, he is concerned about costs related to bargaining process oversight and defense of the ordinance in court. 

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